Lack of broadband is forcing rural businesses to relocate

14 Nov 2016

From left: Ludgate Digital Hub CEO, Gráinne Dwyer, and Vodafone Ireland CEO, Anne O’Leary at National Digital Week 2016

Over one-third of rural Irish businesses would consider relocating to a bigger nearby town just to get broadband.

The enduring saga of broadband in Ireland is forcing businesses to consider moving their premises, because they can no longer afford to be left out of the digital economy.

Over one in three (37pc) said that they would have to relocate to a nearby town or city because connectivity is unavailable.

The study by Vodafone Ireland found that nearly half of existing businesses (44.5pc) do not believe their existing broadband speed is sufficient for their business requirements.

The research, revealed at the National Digital Week 2016 at the Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen at the weekend, highlights the ongoing challenge facing rural businesses.

The rural broadband challenge

Lack of broadband is forcing rural businesses to relocate

Pictured: Siro CEO Sean Atkinson and Vodafone CEO Ann O’Leary

Nearly seven in 10 (69pc) said that slow and unreliable speeds are preventing them from working efficiently and hold back their potential for growth.

Half of firms that have moved to the Hub in Skibbereen, which is served with 1Gbps broadband from Siro – a joint venture between Vodafone and ESB – say that they have experienced a 30pc increase in online sales.

The majority say that having access to fast broadband means it may be possible to employ more people on a full or part-time basis in the next 12 months.

“Insufficient broadband access is one of the critical issues facing Irish businesses and consumers today, particularly for those in rural locations,” said Anne O’Leary, CEO of Vodafone.

“High-speed broadband internet connectivity will mean that businesses can base themselves in any location and compete on a level playing field with some of the biggest organisations in the world.”

Siro intends to deliver 1Gbps broadband to 500,000 homes and businesses across 50 towns nationwide by 2018.

Broadband initiative

Both Vodafone and Siro are working on a new initiative to provide 150 businesses with 1Gbps fibre for free for the next two years.

The initiative will be open to digital hubs, enterprise and innovation centres and Institutes of Technology on the Siro footprint in its first 17 regional towns. Further details about this initiative will be made available in early 2017.

“Gigabit connectivity is already having a transformative effect on communities across Ireland as demonstrated by the success of the Ludgate Hub,” said Sean Atkinson, CEO of Siro.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of the Irish economy, but traditionally SMEs in regional and rural areas are not competing on a level playing field as they do not have access to high quality broadband. We aim to transform this by putting each of our roll-out towns on a par for high-speed connectivity with leading international hubs, such as Tokyo and Hong Kong,” Atkinson said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years